Forbes was one of the most deadly shooters in the NBA this season, but he’s still rough around the edges.
Welcome to the 2018-19 season player reviews, where we will be rehashing the performance of 13 San Antonio Spurs from this season (excluding Dejounte Murray, Pau Gasol, Donatas Motiejunas, and two-way players Drew Eubanks and Ben Moore) and looking towards the future. If you’ve missed any, you can click here to catch up.
Roger Ebert once talked about how every movie he rated was independent of all the others. He didn’t believe that two movies receiving the same star rating were always of the same quality. Instead, he believed that both movies were equal in achieving their respective goals and expectations. These reviews will take the same approach when providing grades, so two players receiving the same grade does not necessarily mean they had the same impact on the team.
Birthday: July 23rd, 1993 (25 years old)
Contract details: $2,875,000 in 2019-2020, Unrestricted Free Agent in 2020-2021
Being a fan is difficult. We watch the games. We study the numbers. As a result, we sometimes think we know more about what is going on than those who are actually part of the organization in question. Case in point, here is what I had to say regarding the re-signing of Forbes last summer:
Anyone know the number to the Spurs analytics department? Sure, Forbes led the Spurs in 3P% last season, but was at the bottom of every advanced metric known to man. Anderson, on the other hand, was in the top two of these metrics. Obviously Forbes isn’t going to be getting anywhere near the money Anderson was offered, but Forbes really shouldn’t be in the league.
I had a few other scathing remarks in the comments section, but I’ve embarrassed myself enough already. To be fair, the majority of what I said wasn’t untrue. The Spurs were unquestionably worse with Forbes on the court in the 2017-2018 season. He spaced the floor well, but his lack of offensive versatility and defensive shortcomings were too much to overcome. While many seemed to share my concerns, Sigurd Jarlson prophesied the ascension of Forbes:
I hope Bryn averages 12 points per game with 40% shooting from three and Pop makes asses out of all of us. I really do.
Sorry Sigurd, but Forbes only averaged 11.8 points this season.
It’s not likely that even Pop could have envisioned a scenario where the Spurs would end up making the playoffs with Forbes playing all 82 games, starting in 81 of them, and averaging 28 minutes a game. But it happened. Dejounte Murray went down for the season and Derrick White missed the first month, forcing Forbes into a more prominent role.
Give credit where credit is due. The Spurs put their faith in Forbes by inserting him into the starting lineup instead of seeking veteran help from the outside, and he delivered. He came back this season physically stronger, mentally tougher, and more versatile in his offensive game. Defensively, he’s still a work in progress.
Forbes is set to make less than $3 million next season, making his contract one of the more team-friendly contracts in the entire NBA. Though I haven’t always been a huge fan of his, it’s pretty remarkable watching an undrafted player go from the G-League to a starter on a playoff team in such short order. I can’t speak for everyone, but Pop and Forbes definitely made an ass out of me.
Forbes was reliable on the offensive side of the court, reaching double-digit scoring in 64 games during the regular season and playoffs. With both LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DoRozan doing the majority of their work from inside the arc, Forbes provided important spacing to the starting lineup.
He has beautiful mechanics to his shot. With all the flailing, uneven distribution of weight, and variance in launch angles I see from Marco Belinelli, Davis Bertans, and Patty Mills, it’s nice to see Forbes sticking to his fundamentals. Everything Forbes does on the offensive side of the court seems mechanical in nature, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s clear he’s put in countless hours of drills during practice and is most comfortable sticking to movements that reflect those drills during games. It’s not the most exciting thing to watch, but it’s efficient. This efficiency was reflected in his True Shooting Percentage (TS%), which was third best on the team during the regular season and second best during the playoffs.
Forbes was asked to do more this season, but he’s at his best as a shooter.
Forbes was an excellent shooter last season no matter the play time ran by the Spurs. 36% of his shots came off spot up possessions, down from 43% last season. His PPP of 1.212 was one of the best marks in the NBA this season. The other major difference in his shot selection came as a pick and roll ball-handler. Last season he acted as a ball-handler on 17% of his shots. This season that was upped to 27%, as he spent the first part of the season filling in for White while he was out with injury. His PPP of 0.867 as a ball-handler was slightly above average and was similar to the PPP of 0.876 he achieved in limited attempts last season. His increased his efficiency in transition, hand off, and off screen possessions as well, showing a well-rounded scoring game.
Forbes was also great shooting the basketball whether he was guarded or unguarded. His PPP of 1.256 when guarded was 3rd out of 62 players who had at least 100 guarded possessions. His PPP of 1.468 when unguarded was 7th out of 92 players who had at least 100 unguarded possessions.
He also showed improvement in scoring from each level of the court.
I like what I saw from Forbes in regards to his shot selection from the mid range. He increased his efficiency quite drastically while also decreasing his shot frequency from 28% last season to 22% this season. It’s important to be able to score from the mid range, but we have enough guys on the team who make a living from that range.
Forbes improved his FG% slightly from inside the restricted area, but even more promising than his FG% was the frequency at which he got into the restricted area. Last season he got that area of the court on 9% of his shots, but this season that was increased to 12%. In general he seems more comfortable creating shots for himself off the dribble. Last season only 3% of his shots came after 7 or more dribbles, and he made those shots 35.7% of the time. This season 10% of his shots came after 7 or more dribbles and he made those shots 46% of the time. His PPP from all jumps shots off the dribble increased from 0.941 last season to 0.997 this season. He’s not a ball-stopper by any stretch of the imagination, so it was nice seeing him mix things up a bit. He is still growing as a ball-handler though, and there are areas he will need to look to improve upon next season.
Forbes’ drives to the basket were a bit of a mixed bag this season. He increased his field goal and assist percentages, but his free throw rate was down, and his turnover rate was quite a bit higher. He will need to clean this up moving forward if he is to be trusted with the ball in his hands.
Even more alarming than Forbes’ turnovers when driving to the basket was his turnovers as the ball-handler in possessions where the defense brought help. In 137 possessions in which the defense committed to him as the ball-handler, the Spurs had a PPP of only 0.848 and Forbes turned the ball over 20% of the time. That PPP was 107 out of 133 players with at least 100 of these possessions. There’s certainly room for improvement, but hopefully he won’t be asked to act as the primary ball-handler too often next season. Pop likes to put his players in the best possession to success, and for Forbes, that means doing most of his damage as a shooter off the ball. Pop even said after the season that he hopes Forbes can go back to being a shooting guard next season.
From the free throw line, he went from having the yipes last season to being an 88.5% shooter this season, though his free throw attempts of less than one per game left a lot to be desired. If he continues working on his strength and ability to draw contact when driving to the basket, he’ll be able to take advantage of his great touch from the line.
Forbes works hard on the defensive end, but it’s still a major weakness in his game. Unfortunately his ceiling is not very high as he is undersized and does not have the lateral quickness to stay in front of opposing guards. He only averaged 0.5 steals a game this season, but the one thing I noticed him doing more of was using his BBIQ to help out on the defensive side of the court. He doesn’t have a massive wingspan to clog up passing lanes so he must rely on his anticipation to disrupt passes. I thought he did a pretty good job of that this season.
These defensive shortcomings are the main reason advanced statistics do not love Forbes. He finished 8th or 9th on the team in almost every advanced metric, which isn’t great. When looking at his Real Plus Minus (RPM) numbers, he was considered twice as bad on the defensive end as he was good on the offensive end. The Spurs need Forbes’ shooting, so hopefully the Spurs can surround him with some better defenders next season to mask some of his issues on defense.
Even with Forbes having a solid season, his place in the rotation next season is not set in stone. Murray will be back, and I have a feeling he will be back with a vengeance. Then there’s White, who’s coming off a spectacular season. Lonnie Walker IV has a shot at cracking the rotation. Until I hear otherwise, Mills will continue to get minutes in a reserve role. There’s also DeRozan and Belinelli, though they can, and likely will, spend a lot of time at the 3 spot. There’s only so many guard minutes to go around, so something is going to have to give. Though the Boston Celtics may lead us to believe otherwise, a surplus in options is a good problem to have as long as the players use it as motivation to continue improving their respective games.
If Forbes is asked to handle the ball next season, he’s going to have to work on not turning it over when the defense applies pressure or when he’s driving to the basket. His floater also regressed from 46% last season to 41% this season, so that is something to look at going into next season. I’d also like to see him use his added strength to draw contact and get to the free throw line more often.
I don’t know what else he can do defensively. He’s never going to be a good on-ball defender, so he’ll need to continue working on his team defense if he wants to help his team out on the other side of the court and start being a net positive.
There were a few choices here. His 19 points in Game 7 versus the Denver Nuggets on a night when nobody else could hit a shot stands out. His offense gave the Spurs a chance in the end. Then there was a game against the Phoenix Suns in December when he put up a stat line of 24 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal. But it was against the Suns, so that’s not the game I selected. Instead, I went with the win at home against the Toronto Raptors, where Forbes scored 20 points on 7-10 shooting. He also had 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. Sure, the Raptors are still in the playoffs and the Spurs are not, but we’ll always have Paris.
Final Grade: B+
The fact that I’ve come around to Forbes as much as I have is nothing short of a miracle. His grade was boosted somewhat by my low expectations of him coming into the season, but he clearly put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, and it showed. He was stronger, allowing him to mix things up in the paint more often, and was one of the best shooters in the NBA. I was going to give him a B, but the fact that he was one of the few players on the Spurs who actually showed up in the playoffs improved his overall grade somewhat. I love that he showed he’s not afraid to take — and make — big shots.
Still, there’s a lot of improvement outside of shooting that Forbes is going to need to work on. Either that, or the Spurs are going to have to get creative in finding ways to mask his shortcomings in order to keep him as an asset on the court.
Up next: Marco Belinelli
2018-2019 Spurs player reviews: Bryn Forbes
Source: Pounding The Rock